On November 12th, the Transylvania Pioneers Volleyball team clinched the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament title for the fifth year in a row, defeating the Mount St. Joseph University Lions in the championship game. With this win, the Pioneers, who are currently ranked #17 in the country, clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
For the second year in a row, the HCAC regular season title came down to a late-season match between two teams undefeated in the conference. Like last year, those two teams were the Pioneers and the Mount St. Joseph University Lions. Unlike last year however, where the Pioneers handedly defeated the Lions 3-0 to earn the regular season crown in the Beck Center, the Pioneers had to travel to Mount St. Joseph on November 1st, where they lost a back-and-forth 3-1 match. The Lions were able to clinch the regular season crown with that win, as well as hosting rights for the Conference Tournament. The Pioneers won out for the remainder of the regular season, clinching a 23-6 record on the season and the #2 seed in the conference tournament.
The Pioneers faced off against the #6 seed Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers in the semifinal round of the tournament. After trading the first two sets in very close fashion, the Pioneers pulled away, winning both of the final two sets by at least 11 points to win the match 3-1. Juniors Cate Scheper and Kayden Holcomb led the team with 15 and 14 kills respectively, with Holcomb also having 8 blocks. The win set up a rematch with the Lions in the championship on the 12th, only 11 days after their previous match. After dropping the first set to the Lions, the Pioneers would take an early lead in the second set that, while Mount St. Joseph would threaten, they would never relinquish, with back-to-back attack errors by the Lions sealing the set for the Pioneers. After winning a close third set to put them one set away from the championship, the Pioneers would jump out to a 14-4 lead in the fourteen set. While the Lions would pull closer with a 5-0 run, the Pioneers would not let history repeat itself and responded with a run of their own, eventually winning the set 25-17 and the match 3-1.
With this win, the Pioneers secured their fifth straight HCAC Tournament Championship. The Pioneers also took home several tournament honors, with Holcomb and Seniors Grace Ward and Ava Beltsos being named to the All-Tournament Team. Beltsos, who racked up 61 digs over the Pioneer’s two tournament games, was named Tournament MVP. Ward was also honored for winning HCAC Player of the Year in a season where she became the first player in Transylvania history to eclipse 4,000 career assists.
By winning the conference tournament, the #17 Pioneers secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers will travel to Holland, Michigan to compete in the Hope College Regional. Transylvania’s first tournament match will come on Thursday the 16th, where the Pioneers will face the University of Mount Union Purple Raiders. The semifinals and finals of the regional will take place the following Friday and Saturday.